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Monday, September 3, 2018

Beethoven Quartets Kerman reading group, Week Four

Eric Wagner's music bookshelf

Kerman Week 4 – Op. 18, No. 5 – The First Third of Chapter 3

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger.

This week please read sections one and two of chapter 3 (pg. 54 - 64) and listen to Op. 18, No. 5. Please comment on this week’s chapter and continue to comment on previous weeks’ chapters.

One might see this quartet as Beethoven’s deepest homage to Mozart, patterned on a piece one might see as Mozart’s deepest homage to Haydn. Kerman sees Beethoven looking backward here in an effort to figure out how to leap forward. A strong indication of the leap forward will come in the finale to Op. 18, No. 6, and the actual leap will come with the Eroica Symphony.

The Yeats scholar Ian Fletcher once told me, “Sometimes you have to go back to the day before yesterday.” One can see this in Beethoven’s fascination with the church modes at the end of life, as well as in the Ramones’ love of the Beach Boys.


Roman said...

Op. 18 Nos. 5 & 6 stand out for me from the rest of the opus 18 series. Their lightness, vivacity and sense of fun are palpable. I agree with Kerman that B's looking back here to Mozart and is preparing for a quantum leap of his own, but disagree with K's lukewarm attitude toward the first movement of No. 5. Perhaps because I played this quartet after tussling with No. 4 (seemingly forever...performed it many times over a few years, with three different quartets). K's assessment of No. 4 as the weakest of the Op. 18s seems right to me. It's just so clunky and melodramatic. So after that, the first movement of No. 5 seemed to me like a ray of sunshine after a heavy downpour. I just love its low-calorie fluffiness; sure, it ain't "deep," but it sure is lovely! And the third movement's variations are so much fun to play (I thought the third movement was called "the circus variations" but can't find any confirmation about this online). It's Beethoven Lite™, but it's still Beethoven!

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

On my first listen to No. 5, I particularly liked the second movement. Kerman says the quartet in F is the most popular of the early quartets, and I admit it is my favorite so far.

Eric Wagner said...

I must admit that the Op. 18 quartets blur together in my mind except for "La Malinconia" from No. 6.

Oz Fritz said...

I really like this quartet, No. 5. I enjoyed how the dynamics of the first movement start so quiet and delicate then quickly gets urgent, louder and dramatic. There seems a cyclic nature to it, the delicacy returns right at the end of the movement only different, it sounds changed or transformed in some way.

The start of this chapter takes note of the noise that accompanies Beethoven's signal through the years - errors in the publication of the first score that never got corrected.

On p. 61 Kerman reveals that Beethoven liked to modulate a lot, which I guess means modulating in different keys. This may partly explain why I find his music so interesting and sometimes otherwordly.

My favorite part of this quartet starts about halfway through the 3rd movement until the end of it.

Joshua Hallenbeck said...

Oz Fritz, My favorite part of this quartet is also about halfway through the 3rd movement. Very energetic and exciting. It definitely brought a smile to my face.

Eric Wagner said...

Oz, Beethoven moves to a whole new world of modulation in the introduction to the last movement of Op. 18, No. 6.